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Natural Resource Governance around the World

What is the future for the majority of farmers: to follow the agro-industrial model or to disappear? (Ed # 37)

All over the world, small and medium farmers suffer from attacks coming from a series of policies (land policies, agriculture policy, trade policy, economic policy,) which dispossess and marginalize them and finally compel them to drop their activity, sometimes even by force. In Algeria, recent agricultural policies bet on “agriculture without farmers”; in Madagascar, the government fosters the implementation of mining companies at the expense of rural and peasant populations and their environment; in Andalusia, the intensive vegetable production model forces peasants to submit to the bank system and to enter the vicious circle of hyper-technologization of their cultures if they want to “survive”, prompting them in turn to exploit a precarious migrant manpower.

In France, the overproduction of standards and the administrative determination that sometimes ensue participate in the current on-going eviction process in the French countryside. In that respect we need to mention the case of Jerome Laronze a farmer of the Saône-et-Loire area, who has been chased by the agricultural administration for many years because he refused to conform to normative veterinary and sanitary injunctions. He fell under gendarmes’ bullets on May 20 2017.

Opposing the increasing ultra-regulation of agriculture, Jerome Laronze refused to conduct his cattle farming in accordance with the many veterinary rules and was therefore not “up to date” in the management of his cattle, so that administrative bodies submitted his farm to regular inspections. That is why the farmer was no more allowed to sell his cattle since 2015 and had been criminally sentenced for “refusing a control and mistreating animals” (See :…). Here, we need to remind that the sanitary and veterinary standards, which continuously increased in the previous decades, are mostly issued by and for agro-industrialists in order to fit the best possible to the production processes in the food industry. As they are not relevant for small and medium farms production processes, those rules penalize and put off peasant farming.

Moreover, those standards, far from limiting sanitary and environmental scandals do not prevent the living on of the productivity system that triggers environment destruction. Unfortunately the administrative pressure applied on Jerome is not an isolated case. In a context where the farmer’s job is increasingly precarious, recurring administrative controls participate in the distress of many farmers – pushing some of them into committing suicide – by stigmatizing and infantilizing them while generating a nagging sense of doing wrong. During the latest control in Jerome’s farm, the public administration agents had arrived accompanied by armed gendarmes. Jerome, surprised, had therefore run away and after ten days on the run, he was shot to death on a path in Sailly locality.

This tragedy must not be handled as a simple anecdote because it clearly shows the terrible vise in which the vast majority of farmers are currently caught in France, and elsewhere : either comply with the agro-industrial model or disappear.